Raise Them Right: Biblical Wisdom for Modern Parenting – Walk them Through the “Seasons”
Raise Them Right: Biblical Wisdom for Modern Parenting
Today, in our series on “Biblical Wisdom for Modern Parenting,” we begin in Ecclesiastes 3:1. We look at childhood and parenting through the metaphor of the seasons. “Seasons” is really another name for transitions.
SEASON OF SERVICE:
This season begins at birth and lasts about two years. In this season, the parents are servants to the child. Because a baby is ignorant and dependent entirely, then mom’s (esp) and dad’s life revolve around baby. It’s not like we need “Bible” to help us understand this point, but in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul talks about how gentle a nursing mother tenderly cares for your own children.
Mom checks on him, feeds him, carries him, changes him, comforts her, fixes her, fetches everything for her, etc. There are three purposes to parenting in this season:
1. To “root” the child securely in the world - belonging, love, care.
2. To provide biological needs.
3. To prevent the child from hurting himself or herself.
It practically goes without saying that mom is the primary caregiver for baby during this period, esp if she is breastfeeding. Dad just jumps in and helps out. He is the “aide.” He assists, fills in, and gives her a break.
Now, for too many parents, they do not bring this season to a close. We cannot stop or prolong summer from turning into fall or fall into winter. But we can bring the “season of serving” to a close. If parents do not, then we are in danger of raising a spoiled brat - a child who believes that, just as mom’s world revolved around him so everyone’s world should revolves around baby.
So, the transition out of the season of serving is critical. It takes roughly a year to transition out of this season, but this year is most significant as it sets a precedent for future parent-child relationships. To bring about this transition, here’s what moms need to do:
1. Teach the child to care for himself in those areas in which he can and then expect him to do for himself what he can do - toilet training, get his own water and snacks, dress himself, pick up his own toys.
2. Build a boundary between herself and her child, limiting his access to her - making him wait, refusing to pick him up all the time, instructing him to go somewhere else, to play with his toys and/or read books. In essence, she should begin training baby to entertain himself or herself.
3. Mom should take this year to slowly back out of her life revolving around her child and refocus her energy and attention on her relationship with her husband.
This leads into the…
SEASON OF LEADERSHIP AND AUTHORITY:
The transition from dependence to independence for children is often, too often, marked by storms of protest because toddler would love for the world to continue to revolve around him. But by the time toddler has reached three years old, he or she should now see mom with new eyes - not as a servant but as a formidable authority figure who should not be crossed. In a different context, but the principle is relevant, in 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul writes that when he was a child, he spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child, but when he became a man, he put away childish things.
In this “seasons of leaderships and authority,” it is mom and dad’s job to start moving toddler into accept responsibility for his or her own choices, as we talked about in our very first lesson in this series.
Mom, now, is insisting that toddler does more and more things for herself and toddler needs to be giving mom space to be doing what she wants and needs to do. She also clearly communicates that her relationship with dad takes precedence over her relationship with toddler. So, parenting in this season is focused on two primary things:
1. Training the child to consent to mom and dad’s rules;
2. Internalizing their discipline so toddler now realizes that he has to control his own behavior responsibly. Mom and dad have expectations of her and she has to meet those expectations or she will experience some unpleasant consequences.
Back in 1975, Sony introduced video cassettes under their own format - Betamax. A few years later, JVC introduced videos under a different format - VHC. Both cassette formats had their own advantages, but eventually JVC took over. Sony had to adjust and start creating videos in the VHC format or they would lose what market share they had. There are rules that we have to obey regardless whether we like them or not. The “Season of Leadership and Authority” is the season for training our children for accepting that fact - you have to obey mom and dad’s rules.
In this season, service - doing things for your children - is the exception, not the rule.
SEASON OF MENTORING:
That second season lasts for a decade, from 3 to 13 years old. Now we are beginning the teen years and we’ve got a new transition, into the season of mentoring. This season is illustrated by the Jewish bar Mitzvah ceremony and other rituals in different cultures where a 13-year-old is recognized as moving into the stage of personal responsibility.
We don’t know how old Timothy was when Paul brought him into his mission team in Acts 16. He might have been beyond the teen years, but my point is still the same - Paul was involving Timothy in leadership roles consistent with his ability and his age. Timothy seems to have had some self-image issues because Paul told Timothy such things as: God has not given to us a spirit of timidity (or fear), but of love, power, and discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). Paul told Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12).
Here is the essence of education: 1) Let me do it for you (that’s the season of service); 2) Let me show you how to do it and you watch (now we move into the season of authority - parents have to make sure children are doing things the right way - whether it’s according to God’s way or parents’ way); 3) You do it and let me watch you (this is the season of mentoring); 4) The last season is the season of friendship and that’s when you can do things by yourself. We’ll talk about that in just a moment.
We have been the parent of our teen child for 13 years, teaching and training, and now we are moving into a mentoring role. We are not primarily serving anymore - he or she can do things for themselves. Nor are we in the authoritative role primarily anymore - he or she has learned to control their own behavior. Now, we are in the mentoring role - helping the teenager acquire practical skills that will help him or her become emancipated from their family of origin, move into adulthood easily with self confidence, ready to take on the challenges of life. They can apply for a job (every teenager needs a part-time job working for someone besides their parents), go through an interview, balance a budget, plan for the future, etc. You are mentoring your child to accept adult responsibilities.
SEASON OF FRIENDSHIP:
In the season of friendship, in which most of you are, parents are parents largely only in the biological sense. In reality, parents and children are now peers. In the prior season, advice was given largely at the parents’ initiative but in this season, advice is given largely at the child’s initiative. And, if parents are still prone to give advice to their adult children, problems can arise. This is not the season for unsolicited advice from mom and dad.
In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Paul told the Christians in Corinth: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, let all that you do be done in love.” We are training our children to become responsible adults so that we can be friends.
So, let me review what I’ve said…
Today, as a result of parenting from the 1960s and its hangover has created boomerang children who are having a hard time “adulting” and are being emancipated very late - in their mid-twenties and later. They are often disrespectful, self-destructive, and depressed. This resulted from allowing teenagers to be irresponsible with their own choices, which results from toddlers who were allowed to have short attention spans, be impulsive, having a low toleration for frustration, an inability to delay gratification, throwing tantrums, being defiant, etc.
It’s that transition from season 1 to season 2 that is so important. At that transition, mom must shed the role of servant and step into the role of authority and dad has to back up that authority and assume it himself. Both parents have to be the disciplinarian and the leaders of the child and mom has to bring dad out of the role of being an aide, in effect “remarrying him” so that their relationship as a couple can retake the center stag of the marriage.
The micro-managing mom or “helicopter” mom of today has not shed her servant role in the child’s life. She continues past the age of three to find more and more ways of being involved, demonstrating her abiding commitment to him and, perhaps out of a sense of low self esteem, to maintain a feeling of being needed. So, her child continues being the center of her attention way past when it is healthy for both the child and the marriage. She is more married to the children than to her husband. Today’s mom has deceived herself into believing that the more she does for her child, the better mom she is. That’s simply not the case.
But effective leaders - moms and dads - can:
Make unpopular decisions and stay the course.
Delegate responsibility in order to challenge their children.
Establish a boundary between themselves and their children.
ATTENTION DEFICIT FAMILY DISORDER:
Again, too many children today are being raised by servants and friends and not parents. That is part of the reason why we have so many kids today who are being raised by drugs. Here is an oxymoron of parenting and childhood: The more attention parents pay to their child, the less attention the child will pay to their parents!
By the age of three, a child is going to draw one of two conclusions relative to mom and dad:
Either: It’s my job to pay attention to my parents, or
It’s my parent’s job to pay attention to me.
When we have raised our children, meeting their every whim and largely making their decisions for them, then we will have teenagers about whom mom or dad says, “He doesn’t listen to me.” “We have to yell to get his attention.” “We have to repeat ourselves several times and then get right up in his face before he does what we’re telling him to do.”
His attention deficit is not caused by a chemical imbalance or some other malfunction in the brain. And he doesn’t need medication. The disrespect is caused by well-meaning, sincere parents, who think that the more attention they give their child, the more attention the child is going to give back to them, and the better parent he or she is. The end result, of course, is a self-centered spoiled brat.
Draw four columns:
Child Age Proper Season Actual Season
Are you in the right season with each child? Are you “stuck” in winter? If you are “stuck,” honestly evaluate yourself, your parenting, and ask what are you doing that your child is capable of doing for himself or herself. How are you acting more like a servant than a mom or dad?
Take home message: Serve. Lead. Mentor. Friendship. Those are the “seasons” of parenting. Make a determined effort to lead your child through each season.
Start an evangelism conversation: “How do you think someone becomes a Christian?”